At a press conference on Tuesday, President Obama could barely hide his frustration towards the would be obstructionists in the Senate who say they will block any potential Supreme Court nominee he suggests for the remainder of his term.
When asked by a reporter what he thought about the political move by Republicans to block the process until after the next election, Obama didn’t hold back. At times Obama’s normally calm rhetorical style gave way to more and more passion as his disbelief in how badly these senators were behaving became apparent.
“In the past, this has not been viewed as a question. There is no unwritten law that says it can only be done on off years. That’s not in the constitutional text. I’m amused to hear when people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution, suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there.”
Republicans have spent the days after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death arguing that Obama should not be allowed to use the next year of his presidency selecting a new nominee. Instead, they have feigned the belief that in the last year in office a president must sit on his hands until the election is over. As Obama points out, this has never been a thing. Notably, as recently as 1988, President Ronald Reagan appointed a new justice during an election year and nobody batted an eye.
In a nice little dagger twist, President Obama then put the spotlight back on Republicans who vow to not do their jobs. Rather than allow partisan point scoring get in the way of yet another Democratic process, Obama suggested this could “be a good moment to rise above that” and show America that Congress isn’t a complete-and-utter mess.
“This is the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. It’s the one court where we would expect elected officials to rise above day-to-day politics. This will be the opportunity for Senators to do their job.
Your job doesn’t stop until you are voted out or until your term expires.”
Obama also used the time to make it abundantly clear that he isn’t about to be held hostage by the Republican obstructionists either. In one of the most crackling exchanges of the presser, a reporter asked the President if he would be nominating a moderate so that he might be able to appease Republicans and get them to do their jobs. He was not amused.
“No. No. Where did you get that idea?”
Obama reaffirmed that he would be selecting a candidate based on their merit and on the belief that they would be the best person for the job, not on whether or not he thought a group of conservative politicians would like the pick.
As is typical in President Obama’s second term, this was a take-no-prisoners moment. Having watched Republicans openly vow to stop him from accomplishing anything, even if it meant harming the country as collateral damage, his new strategy is not to even try to work with them. Instead, he has begun to call them out at every term. A name-and-shame scorched earth policy that is making it harder and harder for obstructionists to get a free pass to continue poisoning the political process.
It’s fun to watch.
Featured image via NBC News